Adoptees Are Not Your Therapists

A couple of days ago I blogged about the NYT's new adoption blog and how it illuminated various sore points in the international adoption community.

Today there's a very strong essay by a young adoptee. By any reasonable measure it's extremely positive about adoption. But the young man is honest about the experience of being an African-American adoptee in a white family.

This provokes a reaction in the comments that illustrates the sort of divisions that prevail in the interracial adoption community:

i always find it funny when these types of articles are posted its a similar theme “i’m a different race than my parents, i feel out of place, lonely, etc,. and it has a theme of oh why me, etc”.

why can’t adopted kids at times just say “thanks for the opportunity to have this family” and realize that by wondering about their other birth parents they are disrespecting their parents that raised them, what are they not good enough? do you have to know more bc they can’t give you more.

yes growing up is tough, yes you get made fun of if you are a different race then everyone else around or if your parents are different than you.. get over it, that is life, you will always run into ignorant people no matter if your parents are the same race as you..

what ever happened to saying “that is part of growing up”.. its not always easy, some have it easier or harder than others, is that fair? no its not, but nobody ever said “life is fair” if anything you have to live your life and do the best you can, and at the end of the day if you can say you did your best then what more can be done? you can’t change your race, so stop using that as an excuse for why things are tough or such.. its not fair, but its you.

and for those that say that i have no idea what i’m talking about.. yes i’m an adopted child that has known my parents for over 33 years, my birth parents are not in my life nor do i feel the need to search them out, they had their chance but life put us on a different path, that is just the way it is.

and yes i’m a different race than my parents, so what.. yes its tough at times, but i can’t change the stupidity of people i can only change how i react to it, and that is by moving forward and never looking back.. afterallhow you can you see where you are going if you always are lookign back?

good luck to you all.

— Posted by Adopted one

All the tropes are there: stop whining, just shrug it off, racism isn't that bad, it's selfish to want to know about birth parents, etc. There's no way to know, of course, if this is actually written by an adoptee, but it would not surprise me if it were — some adoptees seem to process adoption issues by being very judgmental of their peers and adopting a I-survived-so-just-walk-it-off attitude. Whether it is real or a troll, these are the attitudes that, in my opinion, adoptive families of good faith should reject. No one is asking us to don a hair-shirt and say that international adoption is wrong or inherently harmful. But we need to be open to discussing the wide range of experiences, problems, and concerns that adoptees bring to our attention. Not only is being open and compassionate the right thing to do in the abstract, it sends our children the message that our love for them is absolute, not contingent on them fulfilling the fantasy of the perfect and grateful adopted child. So adoptees, tell it like it is. You are not our therapists; you were not brought here to make us feel good about ourselves.

Meanwhile I left a comment with the NYT on this thread — one far nicer than the comment above deserved, and far nicer than people who are familiar with my writing might expect. We'll see if it gets published. Hopefully places like Racialicious and Heart, Mind, and Seoul will continue to monitor the question of whether the NYT is excluding particular viewpoints from the comments.


Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. says

    "So adoptees, tell it like it is."

    Oh, I remember so many times as a child – and even to this day – when others (excluding family and close friends) wouldn't so much ask me how it felt to be adopted, but rather told me. Yes, I am grateful for the many blessings in my life today, but the range of my feelings and emotions about being an adoptee reach far beyond only gratitude or feeling "lucky".

    I appreciate the honesty in this post and for the acknowledgement that adoption does indeed hold a myriad of complexities and paradoxes throughout the experience for many, many of us adoptees.